Aug 052015
 

WineThe price fluctuation of fine wines can now be predicted more accurately using a novel artificial intelligence approach developed by researchers at UCL. The method could be used to help fine wine investors make more informed decisions about their portfolios and encourage non-wine investors to start looking at wine in this manner and hence increase the net trade of wine. It is expected that similar techniques will be used in other ‘alternative assets’ such as classic cars.

Co-author, Dr Tristan Fletcher, an academic at UCL and founder of quantitative wine asset management firm Invinio, said: “People have been investing in wine for hundreds of years and it’s only very recently that the way they are doing it has changed. Wine investment is becoming more accessible and is a continually growing market, primarily brokered in London: the world-centre of the wine trade. We’ve shown that price prediction algorithms akin to those routinely used by other markets can be applied to wines.”

The study, published today in the Journal of Wine Economics with guidance from Invinio, found more complex machine learning methods outperformed other simpler processes commonly used for financial predictions. When applied to 100 of the most sought-after fine wines from the Liv-ex 100 wine index, the new approach predicted prices with greater accuracy than other more traditional methods by learning which information was important amongst the data.

Co-author, Professor John Shawe-Taylor, co-Director of the UCL Centre for Computational Statistics & Machine Learning and Head of UCL Computer Science, said: “Machine learning involves developing algorithms that automatically learn from new data without human intervention. We’ve created intelligent software that searches the data for useful information which is then extracted and used, in this case for predicting the values of wines. Since we first started working on machine learning at UCL, our methods have been used in a wide variety of industries, particularly medical and financial, but this is the first time we have entered the world of fine wine.”

For this study, the team tested two forms of machine learning including ‘Gaussian process regression’ and the more complex ‘multi-task feature learning’, which was first invented by UCL scientists in 2006 but has had significant enhancements recently. These methods are able to extract the most relevant information from a variety of sources, as opposed to their more standard counterparts, which typically assume every data point is of interest, spurious or otherwise.

Analysis shows that machine learning methods based on Gaussian process regression can be applied to all the wines in the Liv-ex 100 with an improvement in average predictive accuracy of 15% relative to the most effective of the traditional methods. Machine learning methods based on multi-task feature learning only worked for half of the wines analysed as it required a stronger relationship between prices from one day to the next. However, where multi-task feature learning was applied, accuracy of predictions increased by 98% relative to more standard benchmarks.

Primary author and UCL MSc graduate, Michelle Yeo, said: “Other areas of finance already use automated processes for identifying meaningful trends but these haven’t been tested on the fine wine market until now. We’re pleased we were able to develop models applicable to fine wines and we hope our findings give the industry confidence to start adopting machine learning methods as a tool for investment decisions.”

Invinio plans to continue its collaboration with UCL in order to refine the algorithms and improve the tools it provides for existing and potential wine investors through its site. In doing so, the team say they need to strike a balance between the complexity of algorithms being developed and the actual improvements they offer in terms of performance. They are considering applying these techniques to the world of classic cars next.

Source : UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

 

Waiting for pleasure

 Waiting for pleasure  Brain, Decision, Recently  Comments Off on Waiting for pleasure
Aug 052015
 

96742_webResearchers at McGill have clearly identified, for the first time, the specific parts of the brain involved in decisions that call for delayed gratification. In a paper recently published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, they demonstrated that the hippocampus (associated with memory) and the nucleus accumbens (associated with pleasure) work together in making critical decisions of this type, where time plays a role. The researchers showed that when these two structures were effectively ‘disconnected’ in the brain, there is a disruption of decisions related to delayed gratification.

It is a discovery which has implications not only for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD, eating disorders and anxiety disorders, but also for more common problems involving maladaptive daily decisions about drug or alcohol use, gambling or credit card binges.

How the work was done

The researchers discovered the importance of this connection by working with rats trained to make choices between stimuli that would result in their receiving different amounts of rewards, after varying periods of time. The rats were asked to choose between two identical visual shapes by pressing their nose against one of them on a touchscreen (similar to an iPad), in exchange for rewards in the form of sugar pellets. Like most humans, rats have a sweet tooth.

With time, rats learned to negotiate a trade-off between a small reward (1 sugar pellet) delivered immediately and a large reward (4 sugar pellets) delivered after a delay. The researchers discovered that the average rat, like the average human, is willing to wait a bit for a larger reward, but only for a certain period of time, and only if the reward is large enough.

However, following disruption of the circuit connecting the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, the rats became impatient and unwilling to wait, even for a few seconds. They always selected the immediate reward despite its smaller size. Importantly, lesions to other parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, known to be involved in certain aspects of decision-making, did not cause this behavioural change.

Implications and next steps

“This is a type of decision-making that many of us grapple with in daily life, particularly the very young, the very old, and those with brain disease,” said Prof. Yogita Chudasama, of McGill’s Psychology Department and the lead researcher on the paper. “In some ways this relationship makes sense; the hippocampus is thought to have a role in future planning, and the nucleus accumbens is a “reward” center and a major recipient of dopamine, a chemical responsible for transmitting signals related to pleasure and reward, but we couldn’t have imagined that the results would be so clear. In addition to providing a deeper understanding of decision-making, our results highlight the potential of this circuit, involving the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, to be a therapeutic target in human patient groups.”

Source: MCGILL UNIVERSITY

Aug 052015
 

selection in a supermarket

In their paper, “From ‘Where’ to ‘What': Distributed Representations of Brand Associations in the Human Brain (Journal of Marketing Research: August 2015, Vol. 52, No. 4), co-authors Ming Hsu and Leif Nelson, Berkeley-Haas marketing professors, and Yu-Ping Chen, Berkeley-Haas Ph.D., used fMRI to test a classic marketing proposition that consumers associate human-like characteristics to brands. The authors say the results provide marketers with a rigorous method that they can potentially use to verify core customer insights.

“Surveys and focus groups are the work-horses for generating customer insights. They are fast, inexpensive, and offer tremendous value for marketers,” explains Hsu, who served as senior author of the study, “However, the inherent subjectivity of these measures can sometimes generate skepticism and confusion within companies, often leading to difficult conversations between managers within marketing and those outside.”

The researchers scanned the study’s participants in an fMRI machine while they viewed logos of well-known brands such as Apple, Disney, Ikea, BMW, and Nestle. After they finished the scan, the participants then took a survey that asked about the characteristics that they associated with each brand. Next, using a set of data mining algorithms, the researchers used the participants’ brain activity to predict the survey responses.

“We were able to predict participants’ survey responses solely from their brain activity,” says Chen. “That is, rather than taking participants’ word at face value, we can look to their neural signatures for validation.”

Although conducting fMRI studies on a routine basis is still likely to be cost prohibitive for most companies, the current findings point to a future where marketers can directly validate customer insights in ways that were not possible before.

“In the past, neuroscience has been providing answers to questions that marketers weren’t quite asking, and marketers were asking questions that neuroscientists didn’t have answers for,” says Prof. Nelson.

“Our research aims to close some of that gap,” adds Hsu.

Source: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – BERKELEY HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Aug 052015
 

 Researchers from the University of Surrey and Lund University (Sweden) investigated how frequent, long-distance travel is represented in mass and social media. They found that the images portrayed do not take into account the damaging side effects of frequent travel such as jet-lag, deep vein thrombosis, radiation exposure, stress, loneliness and distance from community and family networks.

Instead, the study found that those with ‘hypermobile’ lifestyles were often seen as having a higher social status. By assessing how first-class flights, ‘must-see’ destinations and frequent-flyer programmes are represented, glamorising hypermobility as exciting, appealing and exclusive, the study shows how the ‘dark side’ of travel is ignored.

“A man in a sharp suit, reclining in a leather chair, laptop open in front of him, a smiley stewardess serving a scotch and soda. This is often the image of travel, particularly business travel portrayed in TV ads and glossy magazines. But there is a dark side to this ‘glamorised’ hypermobile lifestyle that the media, and society ignores,” explains lead author Dr Scott Cohen from the University of Surrey.

“The level of physiological, physical and societal stress that frequent travels places upon individuals has potentially serious and long-term negative effects that range from the breaking down of family relationships, to changes in our genes due to lack of sleep.

“It is not only traditional media that perpetuates this image. Social media encourages competition between travellers to ‘check-in’ and share content from far-flung destinations. The reality is that most people who are required to engage in frequent travel suffer high levels of stress, loneliness and long-term health problems. There are also wider implications for the environment and sustainability. In this context, hypermobility seems far from glamourous.”

The researchers call for more discussion on the adverse effects of hypermobility, to realistically reflect the negative impact of frequent and long-haul travel.

“Society needs to recognise that the jet-set lifestyle is not all it’s made out to be. By striving to travel far, wide and frequently we are damaging the environment, ourselves and potentially our closest loved ones,” said Dr Cohen.

Source: UNIVERSITY OF SURREY

Yoga eases back pain in largest US yoga study to date

 Yoga eases back pain in largest US yoga study to date  Yoga  Comments Off on Yoga eases back pain in largest US yoga study to date
Aug 042015
 

Yoga study leader Dr. Karen Sherman is a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. CREDIT Group Health Research Institute

Yoga study leader Dr. Karen Sherman is a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
CREDIT
Group Health Research Institute

Yoga classes were linked to better back-related function and diminished symptoms from chronic low back pain in the largest U.S. randomized controlled trial of yoga to date, published by the Archives of Internal Medicine. But so were intensive stretching classes.

“We found yoga classes more effective than a self-care book–but no more effective than stretching classes,” said study leader Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute. Back-related function was better and symptoms were diminished with yoga at 12 weeks; and clinically important benefits, including less use of pain medications, lasted at least six months for both yoga and stretching, with thorough follow-up of more than nine in 10 participants.

In the trial, 228 adults in six cities in western Washington state were randomly assigned to 12 weekly 75-minute classes of either yoga or stretching exercises or a comprehensive self-care book called The Back Pain Helpbook. Nine in 10 of them were primary-care patients at Group Health Cooperative. Participants in the trial typically had moderate–not severe–back pain and relatively good mental health, and most had been at least somewhat active before the trial started.

The class participants received instructional videos and were encouraged to practice at home for 20 minutes a day between their weekly classes. Interviewers who didn’t know the patients’ treatment assignments assessed their back-related function and pain symptoms at six weeks, 12 weeks, and six months.

In 2005, Dr. Sherman and her colleagues conducted a smaller study that found yoga effective for easing chronic low back pain. “In our new trial,” she said, “we wanted both to confirm those results in a larger group and to see how yoga compared to a different form of exercise of comparable physical exertion: stretching.

Both the yoga and stretching classes emphasized the torso and legs:

  • The type of yoga used in the trial, called viniyoga, adapts the principles of yoga for each individual and physical condition, with modifications for people with physical limitations. The yoga classes also used breathing exercises, with a deep relaxation at the end.
  • The stretching classes used 15 different stretching exercises, including stretches of the hamstrings and hip flexors and rotators. Each was held for a minute and repeated once, for a total of 52 minutes of stretching. Strengthening exercises were also included.

“We expected back pain to ease more with yoga than with stretching, so our findings surprised us,” Dr. Sherman said. “The most straightforward interpretation of our findings would be that yoga’s benefits on back function and symptoms were largely physical, due to the stretching and strengthening of muscles.”

But the stretching classes included a lot more stretching than in most such classes, with each stretch held for a relatively long time. “People may have actually begun to relax more in the stretching classes than they would in a typical exercise class,” she added. “In retrospect, we realized that these stretching classes were a bit more like yoga than a more typical exercise program would be.” So the trial might have compared rather similar programs with each other.

“Our results suggest that both yoga and stretching can be good, safe options for people who are willing to try physical activity to relieve their moderate low back pain,” Dr. Sherman concluded. “But it’s important for the classes to be therapeutically oriented, geared for beginners, and taught by instructors who can modify postures for participants’ individual physical limitations.”

In an invited commentary, Timothy S. Carey, MD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, called Dr. Sherman’s study “an excellent example of a pragmatic comparative effectiveness trial,” noting that the Institute of Medicine has identified chronic back pain as a priority condition for such studies.

Source: GROUP HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Knowledge about alternative medicine connected to education, income

 Knowledge about alternative medicine connected to education, income  Yoga  Comments Off on Knowledge about alternative medicine connected to education, income
Aug 042015
 

People with lower educational levels and incomes are less likely to know about yoga, acupuncture, natural products and chiropractic medicine, according to a new study from San Francisco State University.

Studies on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have typically focused on learning more about who use these types of practices and why. Less is known about trends among those who do not partake, which inspired new research by Professor of Health Education Adam Burke, published in PLOS ONE on June 17.

“It’s very important to know why somebody is not doing a particular behavior,” said Burke, who is also the director of SF State’s Institute for Holistic Health Studies. “If your child isn’t eating broccoli and you want him to, you need to know why. If it’s just a matter of the pieces being too big, you can cut it up. But if you don’t know why, the child will not eat the broccoli.”

The research, based on the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, looked at data from more than 13,000 respondents who said they had never used acupuncture, chiropractic, natural products or yoga, four common CAM practices.

Lack of knowledge as a reason for non-use was strongly associated with lower education levels and income. Those who attended college were 58 percent less likely to indicate lack of knowledge as a reason for non-use, and individuals with higher incomes were 37 percent less likely.

“The implication of this study is that the lack of access to health knowledge is a root of health inequity,” Burke said. “If you are poor, you have less access to health information for a variety of reasons.”

Physical activity levels were also found to correlate with knowledge. People who described themselves as less physically active were significantly more likely to claim a lack of knowledge of all four complementary practices.

One finding of the study that surprised Burke was that the results held true for survey respondents who experienced lower back pain. Since back pain is the medical condition most commonly linked to use of complementary health treatments, Burke and his coauthors hypothesized that back-pain sufferers would have greater knowledge about these treatments even if they opted not to use them, as their pain would compel them to learn about a variety of remedies. But Burke found that the relationship between lower education levels and lack of knowledge remained — in other words, back pain did not seem to be a significant enough motivator to seek out these common alternative treatments.

But it’s especially important for people with back pain to know about CAM methods, Burke said. “Often, the solution for chronic pain is addictive prescription medications, which are problematic in all communities, especially in lower-income communities,” Burke said. “Complementary methods have the potential to mitigate such addiction problems, and may help address the root problem rather than just managing the symptoms, which is a real benefit.”

This study indicates a greater need among doctors to follow best-practice guidelines for sharing information about integrative practices, combining conventional western and CAM approaches, Burke said.

“It’s highly likely that a lack of knowledge prevents some individuals from using these integrative approaches — if they knew more, they would use them more,” Burke said. “These are cost-effective treatments that have limited side effects and may actually help remediate people’s problems. Especially in lower-income communities, it is important for health care providers to recommend them.”

“Limited health knowledge as a reason for non-use of four common complementary health practices” by Adam Burke and co-authors Richard L. Nahin and Barbara J. Stussman of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health was published in PLOS ONE on June 17.

Source: SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY

Aug 042015
 

Physical activities, such as walking, as well as aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, and yoga/Pilates are associated with better sleep habits, compared to no activity, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In contrast, the study shows that other types of physical activity – such as household and childcare — work are associated with increased cases of poor sleep habits. 

Physical activity is already well associated with healthy sleep, but the new study, led by Michael Grandner, PhD, instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn, yields insight into whether specific types of physical activities may impact sleep quality.

Using data on sleep and physical activities of 429,110 adults from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Penn researchers measured whether each of 10 types of activities was associated with typical amount of sleep, relative to both no activity and to walking. Survey respondents were asked what type of physical activity they spent the most time doing in the past month, and also asked how much sleep they got in a typical 24-hour period. Since previous studies showed that people who get less than 7 hours are at greater risk for poor health and functioning, the study evaluated whether people who reported specific activities were more likely to also report sufficient sleep.

Compared to those who reported that they did not get physical activity in the past month, all types of activity except for household/childcare were associated with a lower likelihood of insufficient sleep. To assess whether these effects are just a result of any activity, results were compared to those who reported walking as their main source of activity. Compared to just walking, aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golf, running, weight-lifting and yoga/Pilates were each associated with fewer cases of insufficient sleep, and household/childcare activity was associated with higher cases of insufficient sleep. These results were adjusted for age, sex, education level, and body mass index.

“Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising,” said Grandner. “Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf. It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep – we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”

“These results are consistent with the growing scientific literature on the role of sleep in human performance,” said Grandner. “Lab studies show that lack of sleep is associated with poor physical and mental performance, and this study shows us that this is consistent with real-world data as well. Since these results are correlational, more studies are needed to help us understand whether certain kinds of physical activity can actually improve or worsen sleep, and how sleep habits help or hurt a person’s ability to engage in specific types of activity.

Source: UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Could yoga lessen prenatal depression?

 Could yoga lessen prenatal depression?  Yoga  Comments Off on Could yoga lessen prenatal depression?
Aug 042015
 

Pregnant women are often reluctant to use medications to ease depression. Early research suggests that yoga and mindfulness could be an attractive option. CREDIT By Stephanie Ewens. Courtesy of Kaeli Sutton

Pregnant women are often reluctant to use medications to ease depression. Early research suggests that yoga and mindfulness could be an attractive option.
CREDIT
By Stephanie Ewens. Courtesy of Kaeli Sutton

In a small pilot study, researchers at Brown University, Butler Hospital, and Women & Infants’ Hospital have found evidence suggesting that yoga could help pregnant women with significant depression reduce the severity of the mood disorder.

Lead author Cynthia Battle said she learned in prior research that depressed pregnant women are often reluctant to use medications and some also have difficulty engaging in individual psychotherapy. When she asked them what other treatments they might find appealing, some mentioned yoga.

“This is really about trying to develop a wider range of options that suit women who are experiencing these kind of symptoms during pregnancy,” said Battle, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown and a psychologist at Butler and Women & Infants. “What we don’t want to do is have people fall through the cracks.”

A few small studies have also suggested that yoga and mindfulness-based approaches could help prevent or treat depression during pregnancy. Battle’s study, published in the March-April issue of the journal Women’s Health Issues, is an initial test of whether a 10-week program of prenatal yoga, structured to be similar to yoga programs available to pregnant women in many communities, could be feasible, acceptable, safe, and effective for mild to moderately depressed women.

“What we feel like we’ve learned from this open pilot trial is that prenatal yoga really does appear to be an approach that is feasible to administer, acceptable to women and their healthcare providers, and potentially helpful to improve mood,” Battle said. “We found what we think are very encouraging results.”

Importantly, this pilot study was not a blinded randomized controlled trial, which would provide stronger, more rigorous evidence, Battle said. She and second author Lisa Uebelacker have since led a small randomized controlled trial with similarly positive results that are now being written up for publication. They are seeking funding for a larger research study with investigators from Brown, Butler, Women & Infants, and Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket in order to gather more definitive evidence.

In the newly published pilot study, they worked with Rhode Island obstetricians and midwives to recruit 34 pregnant women with elevated depression symptoms. Women attended a program of prenatal yoga classes tailored for pregnant women by registered yoga instructors. Co-author Kaeli Sutton, for example, is a yoga expert who specializes in working with pregnant and postpartum women.

In addition to practicing yoga and mindfulness during the classes, women were also encouraged to do so at home.

At regular timepoints during the 10-week study, the researchers measured depressive symptoms in the women, participation in yoga classes, home yoga practice, and changes in mindfulness, again using a standardized questionnaire.

Only four women engaged in any other treatment for depression. The prenatal yoga program did not include any type of counseling or psychotherapy specifically to address depression.

All subjects received written medical clearance from their prenatal care provider before participating, and the researchers asked women at regular intervals about any adverse effects, such as physical strain or injuries, throughout the study. The women reported none.

Signs of efficacy

Though there was no control group to compare against, the study provides signs that prenatal yoga could be helpful, Battle said. One was the degree to which depressive symptoms declined during the 10-week program on two standardized scales. On the “QIDS” scale, in which a trained, objective rater evaluates responses, the women on average dropped from scores consistent with moderate depression (10-15) to scores well into the mild range (5-10). On the “EPDS” scale, which relies on self-reports, average scores fell similarly, from a level consistent with clinically significant depression (more than 10) to scores significantly under that threshold.

The study data also showed that the more prenatal yoga pregnant women did, the more they benefitted psychologically. It’s the first study showing a proportional association.

The researchers also measured significant changes in some attributes of mindfulness, which many researchers believe is one mechanism by which yoga may reduce depression. Mindfulness involves directing one’s attention to the present moment, noticing thoughts, feelings, or sensations, and avoiding judgment of those experiences.

Gathering more definitive evidence about how yoga and mindfulness may affect mood in pregnant women is a priority for the planned randomized, controlled trial. Battle said that five-year study design also calls for measuring levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are biomarkers of stress.

The results of the pilot study show that a larger trial would be worthwhile, Battle said.

“This is not the definitive study where we can say that this is an efficacious frontline treatment, however it is a study suggesting that we know enough now to warrant the next, larger study,” she said. “This is an important first step in trying to understand if this is a potentially viable treatment approach.”

Women should consult a healthcare provider before pursuing any remedy for depression, the researchers noted.

Source: BROWN UNIVERSITY

Chapman University research on the yoga market from 1980 to the present

 Chapman University research on the yoga market from 1980 to the present  Yoga  Comments Off on Chapman University research on the yoga market from 1980 to the present
Aug 042015
 

Researchers in Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and their collaborators have just published a study on the evolution of yoga in the marketplace. Assistant Professor Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, Ph.D., co-authored the study, which examined how the meaning of yoga transformed in the past three decades. The results show that yoga became decreasingly associated with spirituality and increasingly associated with medicine and fitness. The study argues that the shift in the meanings are due to the changes in how yoga gurus are trained, market contests amongst different meanings and the distinct branding practices of small and big players in the market.

The study is timely as today, 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, up from 4.3 million in 2001. They spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, vacations and media; constituting an increase of 80 percent in just four years. The U.S. yoga market density has been increasing with yoga enterprises rising from 14,058 to 26,506 and the number of employers increasing from 58,525 to 112,890 during the 2004–2013 period.

“What we discovered was the U.S. yoga market delineated itself not only in the different types of yoga that emerged, but also in the logic behind why people do yoga,” said Dr. Coskuner-Balli. “As multiple meanings and rule systems–or as what we refer to as’logics’– co-exist in the marketplace, how to manage the demands from multiple constituents is a challenging task. Numerous logics exist in many fields including healthcare, finance, and education, to name a few. In our paper, we develop a managerial framework for managing conflicting demands that might exist amongst logics and conveying brand legitimacy,” she continued.

Brief History of Yoga in the U.S.

The market drivers behind yoga are spirituality, medical, and fitness. Sources trace the beginning of yoga in the United States to Swami Vivekananda’s speech representing Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. During the first half of the 20th century, yoga was construed mainly as a spiritual practice linked to mysticism, magic, and asceticism with religiophilosophical underpinnings and an emphasis on Raja yoga (the mental science) rather than Hatha yoga (physical yoga).

In the 1960s, a greater understanding of its health benefits and the diffusion of its physical component to the U.S. mainstream led to the demystification of yoga. In the 1970s, a more scientific understanding of yoga emerged, and it became a viable player in the field of mind-body medicine, particularly as a treatment method for youth gripped by the drug culture.

The spirituality approach to yoga is structured around the goal of enlightenment, with gurus (charismatic leaders that devotees look up to in their practice) as leaders. Early gurus were mainly of Indian descent, and were later followed by their U.S. disciples. The spirituality logic is translated into practice through chanting, meditation and reading of religious texts which is all aimed at enhancing self-awareness.

The medical approach is organized around the health benefits of yoga. The instructors are perceived as healers who help patients recover from injuries, manage pain and prevent chronic health problems. This is rooted in scientific study.

The fitness approach emphasizes physical benefits as the goal of yoga. Students perform yoga to condition their bodies and occasionally to improve their performance in other sports. This is rooted in kinesiology.

“Over the three decade analysis of the yoga market we found that it was decreasingly associated with the logic of spirituality and increasing associated with the medical and fitness logics,” said Dr. Coskuner-Balli. “Commercialization also emerged and yoga became increasing commoditized with the rising coverage of yoga brands, gear, clothing, and retreats.”

The medical approach was amplified as medical studies started examining and publishing the health benefits of yoga. The medical approach also got institutionalized with the founding of the U.S. government’s lead agency for scientific research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1998. Health practitioners, insurance companies and employers began to recognize yoga as a treatment form, which extended its health benefits to a broader range of consumers. Corporations such as Nike, Apple and HBO began offering on-site yoga classes as a regular employee benefit.

The fitness approach also gained more attention as American entrepreneurs appropriated the physical elements of yoga. Most notably, in 1989, a yoga teacher named Berly Bender Birch coined the term “Power Yoga” to refer to her Ashtanga style of yoga. Her book, Power Yoga, became the best-selling book in 1999. Her intention for the book was to communicate the physicality of her yoga and make it more appealing to Americans by demarcating it from the more spiritual based practices of the 1970s.

The YogaFit brand was created in 1994 to address the challenges of teaching yoga in health clubs. By dispensing with the Sanskrit names of postures and eliminating the om-ing and chanting, YogaFit made yoga user-friendly for those interested in a secular practice. By 2002, yoga had become the third most popular class at fitness centers, following personal and group strength training.

In the 2000s, generalist brands with the mission of increasing market share via making yoga accessible to mainstream audiences emerged in the marketplace further amplifying the fitness approach in this market. CorePower Yoga, for example, began in 2002 with a goal of becoming the first true national yoga chain. Currently, it is the market’s largest studio chain with 86 studios in 12 states, and is expected to double the number of its studios in the next five years.

Research Methodology

The researchers gathered data via archival sources, netnography, in-depth interviews and participant observations. For archival research the researchers examined newspapers articles about yoga with the word “yoga” in the headline or lead paragraph from The New York Times and The Washington Post published between 1980 and 2012. They also examined books published that contained the word “yoga,” including classical books on yoga and books on the history of yoga. They interviewed founders of yoga brands; as well as participated in various types of yoga classes between 2009 and 2012.

The study which was co-authored with Dr. Burcak Ertimur was published in the Journal of Marketing, in March 2015.

 

Source: CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY

ACSM: Yoga helped older stroke victims improve balance, endurance

 ACSM: Yoga helped older stroke victims improve balance, endurance  Yoga  Comments Off on ACSM: Yoga helped older stroke victims improve balance, endurance
Aug 042015
 

An Indiana University study that exposed older veterans with stroke to yoga produced “exciting” results as researchers explore whether this popular mind-body practice can help stroke victims cope with their increased risk for painful and even deadly falls.

The pilot study involved 19 men and one woman, average age of 66. For eight weeks, they participated in a twice weekly hour-long group yoga class taught by a yoga therapist who dramatically modified the poses to meet the veterans’ needs.

A range of balance items measured by the Berg Balance Scale and Fullerton Advance Balance Scale improved by 17 percent and 34 percent respectively by the end of the program. But equally exciting to lead researcher Arlene A. Schmid, rehabilitation research scientist at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, was the measurable gain in confidence the study participants had in their balance.

“It also was interesting to see how much the men liked it,” said Schmid, assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Many of the veterans wanted the study to continue or asked for a take-home exercise plan so they could continue the practice. “They enjoyed it so much partly because they weren’t getting any other treatment. They had already completed their rehabilitation but felt there still was room for improvement.”

Schmid will discuss her findings on Saturday during the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in Denver. Her poster presentation, “Preliminary Evidence of Yoga on Balance and Endurance Outcomes for Veterans with Stroke” will be from 7:30 a.m.-11 a.m. in Hall B in the session for Fitness and Performance Testing for Posture, Stability and Balance.

Statistics concerning strokes and falls are grim, with studies showing that strokes can quadruple the risk of falling and greatly increase the risk of breaking a hip after a fall. An estimated 80 percent of people who have strokes will also have some degree of impaired balance.

The study participants performed poses initially while seated in chairs and then progressed to seated and standing poses. Eventually, they all performed poses on the floor, something Schmid considers significant because of a reluctance many older adults have to working on the floor.

“Everything was modified because we wanted them to be successful on day one,” Schmid said. “Everyone could be successful at some level.”

A score of less than 46 on the Berg Balance Scale indicates a fall risk. Schmid said the study participants on average began the study with a score of 40 and then improved to 47, moving them past the fall risk threshold. The study participants also showed significant improvements in endurance based on a seated two-minute step test and a six-minute walk test.

Schmid said research into therapeutic uses for yoga is “really taking off,” particularly in mental health fields. Clinically, she has been watching a small trend of occupational therapists and physical therapists also becoming yoga therapists. The yoga performed in the study was modified to the extent that Schmid said it would be very difficult to find a comparable class offered publicly. Such a class should be taught by a yoga therapist who has had additional training in anatomy and physiology and how to work with people with disabilities. Schmid hopes to expand the study so she and her colleagues can explore whether such classes are effective on a larger scale.

Source: INDIANA UNIVERSITY

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